Aging with dignity – a human right, but also an opportunity for economic progress

The EESC believes that aging with dignity should become a fundamental right. Europeans are living longer, and this is good news.  But with aging, new social, economic and health-related challenges are emerging that affect both the elderly and their families and societies. For too long this topic has been neglected and the growing needs of older people not anticipated, says the EESC. In an opinion adopted on 15 May, the EESC highlights the enormous potential older people represent for new jobs and technological progress.

Home-helpers, personal carers, care assistants and nurses are among the occupations that will create the most jobs in the future. Their knowledge and education are inextricably linked to the well-being of older people.

"We propose to establish a European minimum training/education programme for nurses in gerontology, caregivers and care assistants, not only on a technical level but also on a social and human level, in order to enable and strengthen both the mobility of workers and services for older people", says Marian Krzaklewski, rapporteur of this EESC opinion.  Training should be facilitated through ICT tools. The EESC also recommends establishing a common EU framework that includes the best of existing training programmes.

Older people want to live as long as possible in their own environment. For the EESC, it is essential that their preferences be respected, in dialogue with their families and relatives. "However, the choice can no longer only be between live-in care and residential care homes", opinion co-rapporteur Jean-Pierre Haber underlined. "Alternative facilities already exist, and those yet to be built need to be geared towards facilitating independent living. Thus their design should be based on people's profiles and any particular medical conditions they may have."

The EESC also calls for better use of digital technology innovations: telemedicine, sensors, a digital clinical card and digital medical records, as well as home automation technologies, which would not only enhance older people's independence, but also make care more efficient and secure.  (sma)